Sugar Facts and Myths: Why Sugar is Bad for You

Expose on why refined sugar is bad for you. Fred Rohe covers the facts and myths associated with the use of sugar in our diets.

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No Organic Merchant sells white sugar or any products containing white sugar because it is a foodless food. It is 99.96% sucrose and when taken into the human body in this form is potentially dangerous. It is touted as an energy food, but such sugar myths are propaganda and is misleading for there is ample evidence that white sugar robs the body of B vitamins, disrupts calcium metabolism and has a deleterious effect on the nervous system. This is why processed sugar is bad for you.

The above sugar facts can be concluded by anyone through reading but in addition to the reading, I have taken the trouble to visit sugar refineries in both Hawaii and California. Aside from general curiosity, my reason for these visits was that I had been selling "raw" or brown sugar without understanding what they are. There was no information available which seemed dependable.

Sugar cane is grown with the use of synthetic fertilizers and weed sprays. The fields are burned just previous to harvest. These are destructive agricultural practices; nothing truly good can come from soil so mistreated. I would, therefore, be uninterested in consuming anything derived from commercially grown sugar cane, either brown sugar or molasses.

Sugar refining is largely a mechanical process done in truly huge machines which boil, spin, filter and separate. Aside from water, the materials which enter the processing are lime, phosphoric acid and diatomaceous earth. I don't consider any of these additives significant where white sugar is concerned because one thing is certainly true about white sugar; it is "pure". No chemical residues could possibly remain at the end of the line, so effective is their purification process.

There are three kinds of sugar which are not white: light brown, dark brown and Kleenraw. They are all made the same way—by adding back molasses to refined sugar. For years I have heard several different versions of how these so-called "raw" sugars are made. All of them led me to believe that the so-called "raw" sugar which has traditionally been used in the health food industry is a "partially refined" product removed from the refining process sometimes before the final stage of white sugar. But my investigation have proved this impression erroneous. All forms of non-white sugars are made from a base of white sugar.

The numbers go like this: Partially refined or "raw" sugar is 97% sucrose when it leaves Hawaii and goes through a gigantic California refinery to produce refined sugar, 99.96% sucrose. For Kleenraw they add back 5% molasses, for light brown they add back 12% molasses, for dark brown they add back 13% molasses. A special crystallization process is used for Kleenraw designed especially to create a raw-like illusion.

All sugar companies use similar processes, as it is against the law to sell sugar which has not been refined. Ostensibly, the purpose of this law is to protect us; in reality it means we have no freedom to choose what kind of sugar we would use. Personally, I would like to be able to buy sugar from an organically grown cane in the form of an almost black, syrupy mass of crystals. It is rumored that the law which prevents us from buying such true raw sugar was enacted as a result of powerful lobbying on the behalf of the sugar refining companies.

Organic Merchants do not sell brown or "raw" sugar or any products containing brown sugar either, because the plain fact is that brown sugar is a shuck (for those not familiar with the term, let's call brown sugar phony).

It does not seem to me to be a good judgement to ban white sugar because it is refined to the point of foodlessness containing neither vitamins nor minerals, a definite potential human heath hazard... and then turn around and sell a product which is made from 87% of the very same white sugar. Having done a thorough personal investigation, I can assure you that brown sugar is nothing more than white sugar wearing a mask.

Besides not liking the 87% part of brown sugar—meaning the white sugar—I don't like much the 13% part either—the molasses. For one thing, the ecologically unsound agricultural practices I mentioned previously; for another thing; those mammoth filtration units the molasses comes out of which are filled with charred beef bones. A representative from one of the sugar companies who came to see me to answer some questions from a letter I have written said the burned beef bones were to give the white sugar a more pleasing "aesthetic" effect. He explained that burned beef bones make white sugar whiter. Of course it's purely personal opinion but I say God save us from such "aesthetics".

I have not seen Turbinado or Demarara sugar produced, but my understanding of sugar procesing enables me to make the following wager with complete confidence: I'll bet Turbinado sugar is at least 95% sucrose. I'm so confident that I would not lose those bets that I won't sell Turbinado or Demarara either. That wager makes no pretense of being founded on "scientific" grounds but on first-hand experience of what sugar looks like during the refining procedure.

Not having known the facts, some Organic Merchants have allowed so-called "raw sugar" to have a home in their stores. Probably some products containing it are popular. Our intention is not take the pleasure out of anyone's life, but to play a part in upgrading the quality of American food. If enought of us stop buying junk—even the better junk—the food manufacturers will listen.

So what are you going to use for a sweetener if you never allow sugar to cross your lips? Half the amount of honey should be used in substituting for sugar in recipes. Beyong that, it's all experimental. Try carob molasses, carb syrup, unrefined sugar cane syrup, date sugar. Best experiment of all is to follow the advice of J.I. Rodale: "We receive so many letters from readers asking what kind of sugar to use. So as far as we are concerned, the answer is none... if you would be healthy, omit all sugar and just get accustomed to doing without it."

3/28/2016 8:41:53 PM

Why aren't there an updates concerning good and bad sugars. Like years 2015-2016?

3/26/2015 4:46:54 PM

what about pure cane vegan sugar

2/23/2015 3:04:24 AM

The author of this article is correct in stating that brown sugar is simply white refined sugar with molasses added; so he does have an understanding of that process. However, his assumption that Turbinado sugar is just more of the same white refined sugar, is not a good assumption. Turbinado sugar is made before the refining process that utilizes chemicals to result in the white refined stuff. Turbinado sugar is made from the initial pressings of the cane stalks. Once the sugar cane stalks have been harvested, the stems are split open and the juice is extracted through a process of slow boiling, layer by layer. Then, the juice is allowed to evaporate naturally as it crystallizes into its characteristic large crystals - and that's where it ends. By using a completely natural evaporating process without the chemicals that are involved in the refining of white sugar, the turbinado sugar retains the vitamins and minerals that are inherent in the sugar cane stalks. This Turbinado sugar is actually good for you and nutritious! This is what the turbinado sugar retains: Potassium, Calcium, Magnesium, Phosphorus, Iron, Niacin, Copper, and Manganese. Conversely, just like the author says, the white refined sugar has no nutrients to offer you.

2/6/2011 11:12:17 AM

luckily here in india, jaggery is easily available, and i get organic, biodynamically grown jaggery :) if you guys are a group of organic shop owners, perhaps you can get together with some organic farmers and get some organic jaggery made :) cheers, anant

1/2/2010 2:27:03 PM

So what about agave nectar? I'm not a big fan of sweets, but occasionally use agave nectar for tea or oatmeal, etc. Is that also over-processed? I don't use sugar because I'm vegan and object to the use of animal bones used to process it. Agave nectar doesn't exploit animals in processing, does it?

9/12/2009 12:13:17 PM

I'm glad I'm not the only one who realized "raw" sugar was a scam - just look at the price, that tells it all. Pure white sugar is like .60cent per pound, allegedly "raw" sugar is over $2/lb. PT Barnum would be proud. Also, don't necessarily assume honey is all that pure. There are no laws governing the adulteration of honey with sugar or anything else (glucose syrup, etc.) So, unless you know your apiary, and can trust the producer, you have no way of knowing if your honey was cut with sugar to earn more money for the seller. Same with maple syrup. BTW, MEN had an article explaining how to refine maple syrup, and even how to do it without massive expense for cooking (freeze it, semi-melt to pour off the water, etc.)

12/8/2008 7:17:23 PM

My aunt and uncle have taken to collecting maple sap and boiling it down in their back yard. They don't share their knowledge even with those willing to learn-- whether from an inability to teach or a desire to thin the pool of potential survivors I'm not sure-- but I guess if they can figure it out from a book, probably anyone can. From my understaning, it's a time consuming process requiring the attentions of at least two people who are able to attend to it full time for a few days. And, of course, as it requires being in the habitat of the sugar maple, it's really only viable *well* north of I-40 (hint: in NW Arkansas, I'd have to hunt a long time to find enough wild sugar maples to make maple sugar for a family of 5). But that does cover a sizable percentage of the population of North America, and tapping trees does appear to be a much more sustainable procedure than large-scale agribusiness, so...